Monday, June 29, 2009

2009 Beer & Sake Festival

Last week I attended the 2009 Beer & Sake Festival in Del Mar. The event is hosted by the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana, and benefits the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana's education programs. As you can imagine, there were plenty of opportunities to sample imported Japanese beers and sakes, local microbrews and domestic sakes. There was, of course, also a feast of sushi and other Japanese-style food to try from restaurants on both sides of the border, including Japengo, Zenbu, Sea Rocket Bistro, Negai and The Oceanaire, The Local, Sea Rocket Bistro, and Harrah's Resort Restaurants.

I did discover a couple of interesting sakes, both of them are the marvelous milky unfiltered or partially filtered sakes. Senkin Nigori comes from Japan's Tochigi prefecture. It's got a creamy consistency and is rather sour -- in a good way. The gentleman serving it said that locally we can find it at Ichiro Restaurant on Convoy.

The other sake I really enjoyed was Sake One's Nigori Genshu. These sakes are made in Oregon. The Nigori Genshu is partially filtered, and while the texture is coarser and heavier than the Senkin, it's far sweeter. It's also 19.9 percent alcohol compared with the Senkin's 15 percent, so it packs more of a wallop. You can find this at BevMo and Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido.

Okay, on to the sushi competition. Formally, this is the SushiMasters California Regional Competition. The winner at this competition goes on to compete for the SushiMasters title in Los Angeles in September. The sushi chefs who participated were Atsushi Okawara, Sanraku Four Seasons San Francisco; Tomohiko Nakamura, Takami Sushi & Robata, Los Angeles; Hyun Min Suh, Sushi Ran, Sausalito; Katsuhiro Tamashiro, Toshi Sushi, Los Angeles; and Akifusa Tonai, Kyo-ya, San Francisco.And, there was a bonus competitor, Bob Blumer, host of the Food Network's "Glutton for Punishment."

Sam, the Cooking Guy, Zien clearly had a wonderful time emceeing the event. But, I was jealous of these folks:
Brian Malarkey, Executive Chef of The Oceanaire Seafood Room; Takuya Matsuda, Executive Chef of San Diego’s Sushi Bar Nippon and winner of 2008 SushiMasters Los Angeles Regional Competition, and Peter Rowe of the San Diego Union-Tribune. They were the judges and they got to sample the sushi dishes created by these masters.

I put together a slide show of the chefs as they were working, along with the final products. Take a look here to see the magnificent creations as these masters did their magic. The winner was Sushi Ran's Hyun Min Suh, who created two stunning plates, the towering Secret Garden Roll with lovely little micro flowers on each corner of the plate and the stunning plate with little jars topped with sushi.

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